Black and Blue: Annelle Primm Talks Mental Health For ‘Get Well Wednesday’

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The headline was stretched across the top of The Washington Post last week: Therapists say African Americans are increasingly seeking help for mental illness.

While no major studies have documented it by the numbers, therapists told the newspaper that they increasingly had begun to see more black patients in their practices.

“I’ve seen an increasing number of African Americans who feel increasingly less stigmatized about coming in and seeking therapy and who also recognize the healing power of therapy,” said Jeffrey Gardere, a psychologist in private practice and assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, told The Post.

Gardere said that in the past 10 years he had seen an increase of 20 to 25 percent in the number of black Americans seeking help.

It has been a long time coming.

“People kind of expect, ‘Gee, you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get yourself together, there’s nothing wrong with you,” said Annelle Primm, deputy medical director of the American Psychiatric Association and director of its office of minority and national affairs told The Washington Post in the story, which ran last week.

“We were always taught: ‘Don’t put your business in the street. Don’t put your family’s issues out in front of strangers.”

With that kind of pressure from family and, often, exhortations from the church that counseling with the pastor and greater spiritual devotion was all that was needed, many African Americans have struggled with depression and other mental illnesses that could have been managed with clinical therapy and monitored medication.

Major light was shed on the subject by the late Bebe Moore Campbell.

Campbell, an accomplished author and advocate, received NAMI’s 2003 Outstanding Media Award for Literature for the book “Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry,” written especially for children, about a young girl who learns how to cope with her mother’s bipolar illness.

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